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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Hybrid electrostatic and micro-structured adhesives for robotic applications
by Ruffatto, Donald F., III, Ph.D., Illinois Institute of Technology, 2015, 172; 3733995
Abstract (Summary)

Current adhesives and gripping mechanisms used in many robotics applications function on very specific surface types or at defined attachment locations. A controllable, i.e. ON-OFF, adhesive mechanism that can operate on a wide range of surfaces would be very advantageous. Such a device would have applications ranging from robotic gripping and climbing to satellite docking and inspection/service missions. The main goal of the research presented here was to create such an attachment mechanism through the use of a new hybrid adhesive technology. The newly developed adhesive technology is a hybridization of electrostatic and micro-structured dry adhesion. The result provides enhanced robustness and utility, particularly on rough surfaces. There were challenges not only in the integration of these two adhesive elements but also with its application in a complete gripping mechanism.

Electrostatic and directional dry adhesives were both individually investigated. The electrode geometry for an electrostatic adhesive was optimized for maximum adhesion force using finite element analysis software. Optimization results were then verified through experimental testing. New manufacturing techniques were also developed for electrostatic adhesives that utilized a metalized mesh embedded in a silicone polymer and Kapton film based construction, greatly improving adhesion. The micro-structured dry adhesive used was provided by Dr. Aaron Parness, from the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL), and consists of an array of vertical stalks with an angled front face, referred to as micro-wedges. The hybrid electrostatic dry adhesive (EDA) was created by fabricating the electrostatic adhesive directly on top of a dry adhesive mold. This process created an array of dry adhesive micro-wedges directly on the surface of the electrostatic adhesive. In operation the electrostatic adhesive provides a normal force which serves to pull the dry adhesive into the surface substrate. With greater surface contact more of the dry adhesive is able to engage, bring the electrostatic adhesive even closer to the surface and increasing its effectiveness. Therefore, the combination of these two technologies creates a positive feedback cycle whose whole is often greater than the sum of its parts.

An interface mechanism is needed to transmit applied loads from a rigid structure to the flexible adhesive while still maintaining its conformability. This is especially important for strong adhesion on rough surfaces, such as tile and drywall. Different concepts such as a structured fibrillar hierarchy and a fluid-filled backing pouch have been explored. Additionally, finite element analysis was used to evaluate different fribrillar shapes and geometries for the structured hierarchy. The goal was to equalize the load distribution across the adhesive while still maintaining surface compliance. A gripper mechanism was also created which used a servo for actuation and three rigid tiles with a directional dry adhesive. It was tested on a perching Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) as well as in the RoboDome facility at NASA's Jet Propulsion lab to simulate a satellite docking/capture maneuver.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Spenko, Matthew
Commitee: Kamper, Derek, Parness, Aaron, Pervan, Boris, Srivastava, Ankit
School: Illinois Institute of Technology
Department: Mechanical, Materials and Aerospace Engineering
School Location: United States -- Illinois
Source: DAI-B 77/03(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Mechanical engineering, Robotics
Keywords: Adhesion, Electrostatic adhesive, Gecko, Manipulation
Publication Number: 3733995
ISBN: 978-1-339-22447-3
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